Neil Richardson reflects on his 10-year stint with Rotherham, his work now as a scout for Man City and he gives his thoughts on the current team under Paul Warne.
Neil Richardson spent ten years at Rotherham United between 1989 and 1999. In that time the defender made a total of 216 appearances for the Millers, scoring 12 goals.
Richardson’s biggest game for Rotherham came in the 1995/96 Football League Trophy Final at Wembley. He was part of a team which included the likes of Ian Breckin, Paul Hurst, Darren Garner, Shaun Goater, and they were managed by Archie Gemmill and John McGovern.
In front of a crowd of over 35,000, the Millers faced Shrewsbury in the final and it was Rotherham who rose to the occasion that day to get the win. Despite a late Shrewsbury consolation goal, a Nigel Jemson double in the 20th and 58th minutes was enough for Rotherham to win it 2-1 to lift the trophy.
Richardson picks out that day as well as his Rotherham debut as his fondest moments at the club:
“Probably the fondest memories were my debut at Walsall, which was the last ever game at the old ground and the Wembley experience. We were in London for three days and it was really relaxed throughout which enabled us to go out and win the trophy.
“It’s always good to speak about such an enjoyable experience, because I think we played well on the day and deserved the trophy. But because it was the clubs first ever trip to Wembley people always want to ask about the experience and relive it.”
The 51-year-old spent the majority of his career at Rotherham United, and all of his time as a player was in the lower leagues. While still at Rotherham, he had a loan spell at Exeter City in 1996 where he made 14 appearances.
Richardson departed Rotherham in 1999 at the age of 31 to join Mansfield Town. That was where he ended his career as he made 35 appearances there before retiring in 2000.
Since retirement, the former defender has gone into scouting. He has spent time at various clubs across England, but he is now a scout for Manchester City.
Richardson admits that it can be difficult to find players that can come in and improve the Premier League Champions:
“I always wanted to stay in the game so while still playing I completed my coaching badges but scouting has been really enjoyable and it is the area I want to continue in.
“Scouting for [Manchester] City has been brilliant, they are a great club and I have been fortunate to travel into Europe on some scouting missions, but finding a player that is capable of improving their team is not always easy.
“You can pick the best players in games fairly easily but then they are judged against the players that are already at the club. Finding a player better than Kevin De Bruyne or Sergio Aguero is not easy.
“It’s just about impossible to pick up a player from the lower leagues to go into the City squad. The likes of Jamie Vardy and Ian Wright who played at the lower level before reaching the highest level had to go up the ladder gradually through the leagues.
“Also the club is able to spend big money on players through the fantastic owners, whenever the manager thinks it’s necessary.”
Rotherham United have been on a fine run of form since December, which has seen them rise to the top of League One. They suffered a minor setback in defeat to Peterborough last Saturday, but that is the only game they have lost in their previous eight league games.
Paul Warne’s side now sits atop League One, level with Wycombe Wanderers on 50 points from 28 games. But the Millers have a far superior goal difference.
They will have the likes of Sunderland, Ipswich and Portsmouth breathing down their necks in the League One run-in, but Rotherham seem to be in a great position to go all the way in the promotion race.
Neil Richardson still goes to Millers games whenever he can, and he is loving what he is seeing from this Rotherham team under Paul Warne:
“I think Warney is doing a fantastic job, I love the way he conducts himself on the touchline and it transmits well to his players. He speaks well about his players in interviews and is obviously a keen student of the game.
“The blend of players he has in the team will provide a threat to any team in this league but because they work as hard as they do, they will prove very hard to beat.
“After watching the recent game against Ipswich I am more than convinced that they have the tools to get promoted this year… as long as they go up with Sunderland!
“The facilities at the New York Stadium are brilliant and I wish I’d had the opportunity to play there, although I really loved the ‘homely’ Millmoor.
“Getting the training facilities right can be just as important to progress up the leagues. When you are working all week on things in training, it’s so important to practise on good surfaces to improve your technique.
“Warney will still need money to spend to survive in the Championship but he will learn from his last experience. He will only bring in people who match the profile he wants at the club and I’m confident with the chairman’s support, he can do it.”